Synopses & Reviews
As a young lawyer practicing in Arizona, far from the political center of the country, William Hubbs Rehnquist’s iconoclasm made him a darling of Goldwater Republicans. He was brash and articulate. Although he was unquestionably ambitious and extraordinarily self-confident, his journey to Washington required a mixture of good-old-boy connections and rank good fortune. An outsider and often lone dissenter on his arrival, Rehnquist outlasted the liberal vestiges of the Warren Court and the collegiate conservatism of the Burger Court, until in 1986 he became the most overtly political conservative to sit as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Over that time Rehnquist’s thinking pointedly did not––indeed, could not––evolve. Dogma trumped leadership. So, despite his intellectual gifts, Rehnquist left no body of law or opinions that define his tenure as chief justice or even seem likely to endure. Instead, Rehnquist bestowed a different legacy: he made it respectable to be an expedient conservative on the Court.
The Supreme Court now is as deeply divided politically as the executive and legislative branches of our government, and for this Rehnquist must receive the credit or the blame. His successor as chief justice, John Roberts, is his natural heir. Under Roberts, who clerked for Rehnquist, the Court remains unrecognizable as an agent of social balance. Gone are the majorities that expanded the Bill of Rights.
The Rehnquist Court, which lasted almost twenty years, was molded in his image. In thirty-three years on the Supreme Court, from 1972 until his death in 2005 at age 80, Rehnquist was at the center of the Court’s dramatic political transformation. He was a partisan, waging a quiet, constant battle to imbue the Court with a deep conservatism favoring government power over individual rights.
The story of how and why Rehnquist rose to power is as compelling as it is improbable. Rehnquist left behind no memoir, and there has never been a substantial biography of him: Rehnquist was an uncooperative subject, and during his lifetime he made an effort to ensure that journalists would have scant material to work with. John A. Jenkins has produced the first full biography of Rehnquist, exploring the roots of his political and judicial convictions and showing how a brilliantly instinctive jurist, who began his career on the Court believing he would only ever be an isolated voice of right-wing objection, created the ethos of the modern Supreme Court.
John W. Dean, author of The Rehnquist Choice and Nixon White House Counsel
Partisan is the perfect title to describe the conservative ideologue who became the 16th Chief Justice of the United States. And John Jenkins proves himself a perfect biographer in writing the first full non-legalistic look at this reclusive and enigmatic personality who pushed the nation's High Court to the political right. This is an important, engaging and informative read.”
Charles Lewis, Executive Editor, Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University
THE PARTISAN is a terrific, timely and important book, meticulously researched and enthralling to read. How exactly did a segregationist and mere Assistant Attorney General become a Supreme Court Justice, let alone Chief Justice? John Jenkins' investigative biography is an inspired and authoritative work and a great public service.”
A much-awarded legal journalist serves up an investigative biography of the controversial, late chief justice.”Wall Street Journal
Though it may not be cheered by Rehnquist fans, The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist” is no quick hit job. Mr. Jenkins and his research assistants pored through Rehnquist archives and the papers of other justices to illuminate some little-known corners of Chief Justice Rehnquists life.”
Jenkins's The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist breaks new ground by unearthing the roots of Rehnquist's judicial dogma
Jenkins is a scalding critic of both Rehnquist's constitutional philosophy and of how the late chief justice put it to work. While the book is scrupulously documented, a product of well-tilled archives, interviews, audio analysis and FBI files, Jenkins doesn't spend much time plumbing the origins of that conservatism. But neither, he suggests, did Rehnquist.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sure to incite passions among both conservative and liberal court watchers.”
BooklistJenkins illuminates both the human side of Rehnquist, his parsimony and addiction to prescription painkillers, and his judicial philosophy, which generated little in the way of law but which supported a strong conservative court agenda for 33 years.
Not only the story of the justices life and career, this book is also a portrait of 20th-century American politics. Recommended for readers interested in the Supreme Court and U.S. politics.”
New York Journal of Books
The strength of this book: The author focuses on the man and does not get mired in cases.”
While Jenkins is an informed and balanced commentator on the politics surrounding presidential appointments to the Court, Rehnquist's legal legacy, and relationships among the justices, he is equally interested in Rehnquist the manhis character, his predilections, his demons
In an accessible and satisfying biography, Jenkins finds the right balance between the law and the man, the legal and the human.”
His life story is little known to the public, but now the first full biography of the Wisconsin native reveals a complex, intelligent, and conservative man
.The thoroughly researched account is based in part on a lengthy profile from 1984 by Jenkins, who conducted the last major interview given by the private Rehnquist.”
Los Angeles Times
Less a full biography than an extended essay with a point to make, The Partisan doggedly though somewhat selectively chronicles the life of one of the court's most important modern justices
[M]uch remains that is worth reading and considering, especially today, as voters contemplate the alternative futures of the court that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney offer. In that regard, here's one more observation that frames The Partisan against our contemporary life: If Rehnquist were alive and serving today, he'd be a moderate on the court, outflanked to his right by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and, arguably, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. Even Rehnquist would have found that hard to imagine.”
Many of Jenkinss explorations are fascinating and break new ground; they fill out the profile of an enormously powerful and significant man
One area where The Partisan does add to our understanding or Rehnquist is his life outside the law
These revelations humanize the late chief justice, and his ability to preside over the Court distinguish him.”
Jenkins paints a picture of a clearly brilliant yet ever-striving student, law student, clerk, and attorney
Those who agree with Jenkins argument will enjoy this meticulously researched account, right down to the recounting of the petty public arguments between Rehnquist and John Paul Stevens over Chicago Cubs trivia and the way he eventually forced Sandra Day OConnors premature retirement.”
New York Times Book Review
engaging and perceptive”
It is possible to draw a continuous line between the unyielding boy a Roosevelt-hater in knee pants and the unyielding justice, a man whom Nixon, approvingly, called a reactionary bastard. In The Partisan, John A. Jenkins, a legal journalist and the publisher emeritus of CQ Press, traces that lifes journey and concludes that Rehnquist never traveled far from where he began that he was flash frozen early on.”
Cape Cod Times
Not surprisingly, no president can be assured of how a Supreme Court justice will vote. That is dramatically laid bare in this new biography of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who served for over 20 years and molded the court in his image.”
A highly readable, penetrating, and challenging re-examination of the U.S. Supreme Courts sixteenth chief justice and succeeds with its concise summarization of Rehnquists conservative judicial views while using newly available sources to look at his private life and formative experiences. In the process, Jenkins takes the reader to the doorway of a deeply profound question on how Americas Constitution works: to what extent is a justice appointed on the basis of legal merit in a democratically transparent process versus a selection shrouded mostly in politics and private bargaining.”
A useful introduction to the life and times of its subject.”
The most influential justice in recent history gains that accolade not from his individual opinions, many of which were minority ones, but because his entire judicial effort succeeded in moving the Supreme Court to the right. The current court is unimaginable without the helmsmanship of William Hubbs Rehnquist.
Rehnquist came of age as a lawyer in the Nixon White House, where Henry Kissinger and H.R. Haldeman considered his candidacy for the Court like this: Kissinger: "Rehnquist is pretty far right, isn't he?" Haldeman responded, "Oh, Christ! He's way to the right of Buchanan", referring to then-presidential advisor Patrick Buchanan.
He was. Rehnquist was a lifelong conservative with a well concealed iconoclastic streak, which is how he came to be arrested for camping out on courtroom lawns, long before the idea of Occupy protesting was commonplace. As a 28-year-old clerk to Robert Jackson, Rehnquist wrote a memo to Justice Jackson in 1952 as the justices were considering Brown Vs Board of Education declaring that separate but equal schools for whites and blacks, still legal then, are right and should be affirmed.” He never wavered in his conservatism, and in particularly in his enmity for Ted Kennedy. When the Roe v Wade decision was handed down in early 1973, Rehnquist was one of two dissenters, with Justice Byron R. White. But Rehnquist made steady inroads against Roe, eventually gaining, in 1989 and thereafter, decisions of the Court that make abortions more difficult to get.
Rehnquist survived a bruising confirmation battle as chief justice, with 33 senators voting against him a record for a chief justice. He presided over two epic public showpieces -- the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton and the resolution of Gore v Bush which settled the 2000 Presidential Election. Extraordinarily there has never been until now a book to consider fully the life and times of Justice Rehnquist, who was famously closed off to the media. In his life he gave one interview, to a young journalist on the New York Times Sunday Magazine: John A. Jenkins.
Description to come
The first full biography of William Rehnquist— the iconoclastic, influential chief justice who shaped the current court and moved it decisively to the right
William Rehnquist’s life story is profoundly significant yet largely unknown, which is how he wanted it. Rehnquist’s place on the Court was at once an accident of history and an inevitable result of it—something that Rehnquist had secretly coveted since law school, and yet could never have connived to obtain. His nomination in 1971 was one of the modern political era’s most unlikely appointments.
As a justice and later as leader of the Court, he presided over the some of the century’s most dramatic decisions, including the impeachment of President Clinton and the resolution of Gore v Bush. In thirty-three years on the Supreme Court (nineteen as chief justice)—from 1972 until his death at age 81 in 2005—Rehnquist was on a mission, waging a quiet, constant battle to imbue the Court with a deep conservatism favoring government power over individual rights. His story is important because it teaches us why the Court matters, and how and why our least transparent, least understood branch of government has been politicized.
About the Author
John A. Jenkins is President and Publisher of CQ Press in Washington, D.C. As a journalist and author, Jenkinss work appeared in major magazines in the U.S. and abroad, including The New York Times Magazine, where he was a regular contributor from 1983 through 1987; GQ; The Washington Monthly; and The American Lawyer. He is a four-time recipient of the American Bar Associations Gavel Award Certificate of Merit, the highest award in legal journalism, for his coverage of law and the courts. His historic article in The New York Times Magazine, A Candid Talk with Justice Blackmun,” won the American Bar Association award. Jenkinss cover story in The Times Magazine, entitled The Partisan,” revealed new information about Rehnquists conservative past and brought unwelcome attention to the justice, who vowed never again to cooperate in such an endeavor. Jenkins is also the author of two popular books about lawyers.